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New research finds former prisoners more likely to reoffend without stable housing

5 October, 2023

Interview by Rawan Saadi, adapted by Ashley-Rose Redstone

A new prisoner housing study found that a lack of housing support harms former prisoners and their whānau. 

The Aotearoa-based study ‘Going Straight Home?’, has found prisoners without stable housing are more likely to re-offend. 

Contributor and Professor of Criminology at the University of Auckland, Alice Mills, told 95bFM’s The Wire that people recently released from prison have little support in acquiring housing.

Former prisoners have access to ‘Out of Gate’ services for up to two years after their release. But Mills said these are primarily “navigational services” that can help people find housing but will not get them into housing. Only once someone has been out of prison for two years or more, can they access funded accommodation schemes run by community providers. 

Most former prisoners get $350 in support from the Steps to Freedom Grant given to prisoners upon release. The grant is meant to cover accommodation costs for two weeks before benefits are allocated, but Mills argued the grant would only cover one week's rent at most. 

“Even then it leaves very little for food, clothing, or other things people need to re-establish their lives.”

Mills said a lack of secure housing makes it difficult for released prisoners to rebuild their personal and professional lives.

“There will be some people who have homes they are able to go back to, but at the moment, for some there is no help.”

According to Mills, many survey participants resorted to hostel accommodation after leaving prison. But they said this was not a safe place for children to visit, making it harder to reconnect with whānau.  

Additionally, Mills said stable housing put people in a better position to secure and maintain employment.

The study also found that imprisoned Māori were more likely to move several times after release due to discrimination within the housing system.

“The impacts of colonisation, intergenerational trauma, and in some cases ongoing criminalisation, are going to impact people’s access to housing.” 

Mills wants to see initiatives aimed at finding housing for those imprisoned to make the transition into secure housing easier after release.

“You might have a housing officer in a prison, for example, actually negotiate with the landlord and with family, and arrange for somebody to collect their belongings and documentation.”

Listen to the full interview

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air